The beginning of a new year always seems to bring with it resolutions, goals, new planning, and strategic visionary strategies conceptualized to foster synergized evangelism and actualize forward-focused proactive memes in the hyper-personalized link economy of freemiums. And delight the customers. Smell the synergy.
Just kidding. Kind of.
I am actually starting to put together Information Security strategies for 2010 for work, along with some personal goals. Here are some things to keep in mind if you’re doing the same.
Be specific. Creating vague goals like “improve customer satisfaction” or “eat better” are only starting points at best. You need to have specific, tactical actions to work on that add up to accomplishing the big picture. In the customer satisfaction example, you need to know what customers are currently unsatisfied with, what would make them happier, and what types of things you could accomplish to work towards that. And what does eating better mean? What are you eating now that you should stop? What do you want the benefit to be, weight loss, cholesterol levels, etc? It doesn’t matter if it’s process improvement, sales, your health, just be specific. I’ve seen something similar called S.M.A.R.T. goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely.)
Measure the what and how. Now that you’ve been specific with tasks that will roll up into accomplishing your goals, think about how to measure those tasks and what the metrics might look like. If you don’t know know how to measure, how will you know where you are? Is it just that something gets checked off a list? Reduced by a certain quantity? Change how long something takes to get done? Try to have something quantifiable rather than purely subjective. That will help you to both see how you’re progressing as well as feel like you’ve got something done. Some examples include:
- Improve Customer Service -> Resolve 5% more service tickets per day within the required window.
- Reduce Help Desk Workload -> Implement a self-service tool for resetting user passwords.
- Eat Better -> Drink one less can of soda a day for 30 days.
- Get a raise -> Study for a professional certification; read one chapter on the study guide every seven days.
- Save Money -> Cut out two trips to That Coffee Place a week and set the cash aside in an envelope.
- Sell more online -> Get 10 new unique visitors to your site each month.
Optimal is key. Know the difference between better, optimal, and perfect. Better is what you’ll get done a little each day, optimal should be where you hope to eventually be, and perfect is what you will kill yourself trying to get to but will never. Forget that last bit.
Be realistic. Take each thing one at a time to start out, and pace yourself. Focus on what you have the ability to change and impact. For example, there is a difference between customer service and customer satisfaction. You have direct control over the customer service you provide, but indirect control over customer satisfaction. You could do everything right but still have an unsatisfied customer (although some might argue that means you missed something.) You may need to collect information on satisfaction, but it’s service that your tactical efforts would be applied to, which would hopefully result in improved satisfaction. Einstein was quoted as stating, “not everything that matters can be measured and not everything that can be measured matters.” It’s important to keep things in perspective. You’re not aiming for rabid data collection, just enough to know if you’re getting done what you want to or need to.
“My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all.” – Stephen Hawking
Write it down. People that write down their goals are more likely to accomplish them. Really. I read that somewhere. Go look it up. Then write it down.
Avoid burnout. Check back for some upcoming posts about how to avoid job burnout. Or whatever. I don’t care anymore, I can’t take this. I’ve learned to be helpless.
Track it. Another topic for future posts. But essentially once you’ve written things down, you need a way to record what you stopped/started doing/did more of/less of. Spreadsheet, GoogleDoc, Evernote, Handy Dandy notebook, sand paintings, it’s just what works for you.
Re-evaluate. Along with your specific goals, identified measurements, and realistic expectations, you should identify how often and when to check on what you’ve accomplished so far and what there is left. See if what you’ve accomplished so far is having the desired or expected affect against the big picture, and adjust what you’re doing if you need to. In the customer service example, maybe 5% is helping, but not enough, so you can try for another 5%. Lost some weight, but still drinking 5 cans of soda a day instead of 6? Maybe try 4, or switch to diet soda and see what happens.
Quit. That’s right, quit. Quitters never lose. Seriously though, know when to stop. If what you’re trying to accomplish just doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen, you may be wasting a lot of time and effort. That effort might be better spent on other things or in more constructive ways. You could consider it a failure only if you plodded along and continued on fruitlessly.
Succeed! When you’ve done all this, a little bit here and there, you make progress and before you know it you’ve accomplished a lot and may have reached your goal. It’s just that simple, right?